Columnist Kelley Scarsbrook is on a mission to fulfill 40 goals before her 40th birthday in 2012. Here's the story of her latest adventure:
A few weeks ago, I was very fortunate to experience a different type of goal that has been in the back of my mind for many years.
I was able to spend some time at NightShift Street Ministries in Surrey. NightShift is a registered, not-for-profit society that has been helping people on the streets of Surrey since January 2004.
Volunteers in the community serve meals that are either prepared by local churches or donated through corporate sponsors. The ministry provides friendship, hope, spiritual guidance, clothing and personal care kits to people in need.
I've always wanted to volunteer in my community and help those less fortunate. It's been a "tomorrow I'll do it" kind of thing, so I knew, without a doubt, that this year had to be the year to do it.
I arrived at NightShift, in Whalley, at 6: 30 p.m. on a Monday night to help out. My job was to pass out coffee and juice to those who lined up for a meal. There were approximately 80 people who came out that night for a hot meal.
Many knew one another and I realized that it was also their social time to meet up with those who they've come to know on the streets. Every one of them thanked me when I handed them a coffee - and several people desired a chance to be seen and listened to that night.
Rev. MaryAnne Connor is the founder of NightShift. She, too, always wanted to volunteer but found she was too busy to do it - or, as she put it, "Life always seemed to get in the way."
Connor continued to be drawn to help people, despite being frightened by them as well.
"I didn't know anything about crack cocaine or heroin addiction," said Connor. "I was living in White Rock and owned a successful business in Kitsilano. I used to drive through Whalley and lock my doors."
However, one fateful snow storm changed everything.
Connor had been attending the Gentle Sheppard Ministry in Surrey with Pastor Steen Laursen. At the time, she felt compelled to ask him if he would open his ministry to let people stay inside during the cold snap. He dropped a set of keys in her hands and told her that he would - and that she would be in charge.
She was stunned and very afraid, but quickly rose to the challenge.
That night, after several phone calls and favours called in, she opened the doors for 35 cold and hungry people.
For one week straight in Whalley, with several volunteers by her side, she fed and housed the homeless.
After that first week, she knew she was meant to continue helping the less fortunate.
Connor later shut down her successful business (a real estate marketing company) and chose to dedicate her life to the ministry.
Flash forward eight years. NightShift Street Ministry has helped thousands in need, with more than 300 volunteers and 35 churches involved. There are teams assigned to clothing donations (though its Sisters thrift boutique), prayer services, essential toiletries, counselling and volunteer medical services, in addition to the nightly hot meals.
NightShift, located at 10635 King George Blvd., also has a Care bus, which allows volunteers to be mobile and visit those who cannot get to them.
Connor still has many plans for NightShift, including expansion to other communities to provide more services to help stop the cycle of homelessness.
One thing I learned from my time at NightShift is that one person truly can make a difference.
To donate your time, money or clothing, visit nightshiftministries.org or call 6049531114.
Kelley Scarsbrook lives in Surrey and writes biweekly of her adventures. Visit Kelley's Top 40 Under 40 blog at kelleyscarsbrook.blogspot.com.
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